Goals…Making, Achieving and Exceeding

Throughout my whole life goals have been a very important part of how I operate. Without goal setting it is very hard to create a path to success. While they can be simple and not overly complex, they are an important part of growing. Setting goals and not achieving them provides you with new information to realign and reset your goals to achievable levels. Setting goals and achieving them helps build the self confidence you need to create even stronger goals that help guide you through life.

Goals are also an important part of my work and definitely a part of the Bring Smiles to Seniors Program. Our first year in operation we delivered 7,719 cards. In 2017 that number grew to 18,810. In 2018 we set a goal to break 20,000 and here at the end of May we are over 14,000. In our logo the tag line is “one smile, one card at a time”. While we have a big number to hit, we do it one card at a time and thereby celebrating our successes along the way to go bigger and better than we ever have before. Liane, who runs our special mailing program, always says that goals are made to be broken. It is that kind of attitude and will power that all our volunteers possess that drive us to exceed even our own expectations.

In line with goal setting, we are announcing a new campaign today called “Smiling 50”. During the course of this program we have provided cards to senior communities in 15 different states and continue to deliver to 11 continuously. Our goal now is to deliver to at least one senior community in all 50 states. We kicked the campaign off yesterday with cards sent to non-profit senior communities in Alabama and Alaska. We will continue through the alphabet until we get to Wyoming. Our success depends on a lot. We need to receive enough cards to be able to meet our current delivery obligations and this expansion. We need enough connections to get the cards decorated so they can be prepped for delivery. Finally, we need to continue to collect the rare donations that we receive to cover our postage costs, which are the main expense in our program. Because we don’t set goals we can’t achieve, we believe all of this is possible, but also the reason I am not setting a time frame for it to happen. However, knowing the power of what we do, I suspect this will happen much sooner than we think and we will celebrate success one state at a time. We will create a section on our webpage at bringsmilestoseniors.com to track our progress.

As you look at your own lives, examine the things that you want to accomplish. Pick just one thing, set an achievable goal and avoid setting yourself up for failure before you even begin. When you have mastered that goal, or even exceeded it, move on to the next one. Most importantly, celebrate your successes along the way. Celebrating is an important ingredient to building the self confidence you need to create future success. We will be rooting for you and look forward to hearing about your endeavors.

Have a great weekend, see you on Monday and remember to be the reason someone smiles today.

Ron

UPDATED CAKE RECIPE

Good thing my mom and aunt read my posts.  They gave me a couple corrections to the cake recipe I posted yesterday.  I have now made the corrections so if you have shared the recipe, please re-share it with the update.  The most important update is that there are three cups of flour not two…and oh yeah, you have to add the eggs!

The Power of You

Since the very beginning of this program, I have been astounded by the generosity and kindness of people I have never even met. From the very first post I made on Facebook asking for all my friends to send cards for my grandmother’s nursing home, to the boxes of cards I now receive regularly, my faith in humanity has never been greater. When people come together for a common good a beautiful thing happens and programs such as ours are given life to survive.

I have been in the armed forces, worked tough jobs, had tough bosses and had struggles in life like most of us. However, I will say that one of the hardest things that I have ever done (and most rewarding) is starting a non-profit. I have an MBA and the process is still daunting. The paperwork that is required just to get a 501(c)(3) so that donations are tax deductible, not to mention all the different state filings, are arduous and cumbersome. Once you have all that done, then you have to build your base, hope for donations, work hard at growing every day and then just pray that it all comes together.

There have been times when I didn’t think we would make it. The cards dried up, the decorating avenues became scarce and we had absolutely no money to do anything. In the back of my head I kept hearing my grandmother say the same thing she told me over and over, “never start a job unless you are going to finish it and never do it unless you are going to do it right”. Most importantly, all along the way I never stopped believing in you. At every point when things seemed dire, and I am sure they will again, a new connection was made that kept us going.

If I started naming names I would inadvertently miss someone, so I am not going to do that. Every card artist, decorator, teacher, student, principal, civic group leader, friend, family member and individual that supports this program, we are alive because of the power of you. You believe in our cause and our need and the effect we can have on the aging population. In turn, our team of volunteers works hard every day to make you proud and share our successes with you so that you can see the impact that you make.

For you and because of you we have created this safe positive place for you to visit and be a part of. On our all our sites you see people supporting each other, providing words of encouragement and positive messages. Because of you we are now in our third year. We will continue to innovate, try new things and work to expand our reach as far as we can take it. All of that will be possible because of the POWER of YOU and we are humbly grateful.

Have a great day and remember to be the reason someone smiles!

Ron

Grandma Lola’s Pound Cake Recipe

I promised to send Grandma Lola’s Pound Cake Recipe that she shared and here it is:

Ron

3 Cups Sugar
3 Sticks Butter (softened – use real butter)
3 cups Flour (bread flour is best)
6 Eggs
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Baking Powder
2 tsp lemon extract
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup Sour Cream

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cream butter and sugar until mixed well. Add eggs and mix well.  Add flour and mix well. Add baking soda, baking powder and salt and mix well. Add lemon and vanilla and mix well. Fold in Sour Cream. Grease and flour a pound cake baking pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 1/2 hours or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Make sure you check the cake as some ovens bake differently.

Enjoy!


		
	
	

Speaking from Their Heart

Emerson, Odessa Elementary School, Florida

One of my favorite times in the Bring Smiles to Seniors program is when we have sent a batch of cards out to the schools and they come back with the students messages written inside. Most of our cards come from elementary age children, although we do have high schools and colleges involved as well. We have to read every card for appropriateness and it is very rare that we ever have to pull a card. When we do, it is usually because there is a message that may mean one thing to a child who means well, but would be taken differently by a senior receiving it. Getting a message that says “I hope you don’t die tomorrow” may not exactly be the way a senior wants to start their day.

When we deliver cards to the schools the question we are asked most often is what should the children write inside? Our answer is always the same. Let them use their imagination and creativity and write what ever is in their heart. Ninety-nine percent of the time the messages that come back are exactly what a senior needs to hear. Children innately get the need and channel the innocence that they still posses into messages that are heartwarming, genuine and pure.

There is only a certain amount of time that children get to enjoy that age of innocence before the world and people start to shape them into who they want them to be, rather than allowing them to carry that innocence on into their own lives. How often do we force them into sports, dance , arts or other activities simply because it is what we wanted for ourselves, but never had the opportunity and now want to live vicariously through them. Rather than let them blossom and grow into who they truly are, we mold them into what we want them to be. In the process we place unneeded pressure that causes that innocence that they were naturally born with to disappear.

When we read childrens’ messages we are hearing their true heart. The compassion and understanding that they convey at such an early age is truly a wonder to behold. When I am in classrooms speaking to students and I ask them how many know what a nursing home or assisted living facility is, many hands go up. It is far more likely that a child will have a relative associated with one of these communities today more than at any time in other generations. There are more of them, more people in them and it is only going to grow as the baby boomer generation ages. That also means that the need that we now strive to meet is only going to get larger.

The connection between seniors and children is powerful. That is why we have, from the very beginning of the program, made connecting the circle of life our mission. Nothing can bring a smile to a senior faster than a note or a visit from a child and we are tapping into that power to drive change. In doing so children learn, seniors smile and at the end of the day we have accomplished our mission. If we continue to let children speak from their heart and be who they are, the world will continue to be a beautiful place.

Have a great day and remember to be the reason someone smiles.

Ron

Taking Care of Yourself…and Mother Earth

Vacation always reminds me of the importance of down time for the body and soul. In our daily lives we go and go and while we try and take care of everything and everyone we sometimes forget how important it is to take care of ourselves as well. No one can do that for us, so we must remember to do it for ourselves.

This past week I did just that and had the pleasure of spending time in our 49th state, Alaska. On January 3, 1959 President Eisenhower signed a special proclamation admitting the territory of Alaska into the union as our 49th state. In doing so he added some of the most beautiful scenery in the world to our precious United States. It’s hard to believe that Alaska has only been a state for 59 years. The majesty and beauty that is around the bend of every river, the banks of every shore and the valley of every mountain remind you of the grandeur and power of nature.

Alaska is a place where you still find pristine waterways, untouched mountain ranges, temperate zones that change with the altitude and ancient glaciers and rock formations. Unfortunately, is also a place where we get to experience first hand the destructive nature that we can have on the planet, if we ignore the effect we as people have on our changing climate.

I visited Alaska 18 years ago and got to see some the same places I visited back then. The difference in glacial ice and snow in just that 18 year time period is so evident that it is heartbreaking. There was so little ice that we were able to sail the entire length of Tracy Arm fjord, that which was often impassable by ships at this time of year. While it provided for spectacular viewing, it was also a stark reminder that we need to do what we can to take care of Mother Earth to preserve the beauty and splendor for future generations. This is not meant as a political statement, but rather a reality statement if our children and grandchildren and future generations are going to be able to enjoy what we get to enjoy today.

Alaska is a simple place with small populations, old ways of life, dependence on the land for survival and a place where you can’t take every day necessities for granted. If you live in Skagway, there is one grocery store and one gas station. When the store runs out of milk, it could be days before it gets it again. If you want to run to Wal-Mart, the closest one is in Canada 150 miles away, but you can’t buy meats and other items and bring them back across the border as the inspectors won’t let them through. If you need a doctor, there aren’t any – only nurse practitioners. If you live in Juneau the only way into the city is by boat or plane. Everyone knows everyone and the sense of community is strong and alive.

The best thing for me this vacation was not only recharging, but reconnecting with nature. I was reminded how fortunate I am in life, for the things that I have learned and for the opportunities to do what I am able to do for myself and the world. We get one chance at life and often don’t get a second chance at missed opportunities. This is why I try and live each day as full as I can make it. I feel energized to continue the work we have started and to use each day to better my own life and all the lives of those that we touch. In doing so, I will also remember the importance of taking care of the earth that we live in. I will take that one extra step to the recycle bin rather than the garbage. I will turn off that light that isn’t necessary. I will find the nearest garbage can for litter and I will avoid the excessive unnecessary use of water. If we can do these things we will further our mission of connecting the circle of life and ensuring that generations that come long after we are gone get to enjoy the beauty that has been bestowed upon us.

Have a great day and remember to be the reason someone smiles today.

Ron

Grandma Lola: The Toothache

When I was in high school I was involved in speech and debate. As part of that effort I often participated in oratorical contests that were sponsored by the American Legion. One of the requirements of the contests were that you had to deliver both a memorized and extemporaneous speech based on a series of topics that would be drawn at any given event. For me, the memorization part was the hardest as the speeches were quite lengthy. As my grandmother and I would visit friends and shut-ins around town, she would have me recite the speech for them. She felt the more exposure and opportunity I had and the more I could repeat the speeches, the words would sink in and the memorization would finally occur. While most were gracious and gladly sat through my speech, I am sure there were some that probably got a little tired of listening to them, but they indulged.

One weekend in particular stands out for me more than any other. I was staying over at my grandmother’s house and she had set aside time for us to keep working on the memorization part. Unfortunately, at this same time I also had a massive toothache that was greatly affecting my thinking and all I wanted to do was quit. There were no dentists working on the weekend and I was going to have to endure until we could get to one on Monday. The contest was two weeks away and I can remember her conversation with me as if it were yesterday. She reminded me that there would be times in my life where present situations would not always be perfect to try and accomplish what I wanted to do. I may at any given time be dealing with pain, raw emotions, uncomfortable circumstances or other outside influences that would keep me from focusing on my intended goal. It is in those times that I would need to dig deep for an inner strength to get through the current situation and that I was to never take my eyes off of the ultimate objective. At the time, it didn’t make much sense as I dealt with my tooth pain. However, as I look back at that moment that may have seemed to be so simple, it actually would become a catalyst for how I would deal with future situations.

I went on to win the oratorical contest at the local, district and regional level and came in second at state finals. Today, when things seem to be dire, I go back to that moment and my conversation with my grandmother and I dig a little deeper to find the inner strength to get through whatever I may be facing. Growing up we often fail to see that parents and grandparents often know best until much later in life. Seniors have a wealth of information to help guide and shape us if we only we will listen. How often do we not stop and listen and later in life wish we had?

Have a great day and remember to be the reason someone smiles.

Ron

Grandma Lola: The Hitchhiker

arm asphalt blur close up

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Growing up as a little boy in the 60’s and 70’s it was a very different world. I spent a lot of time on the road with my grandmother. We went out of town visiting family and friends which often took us not only all over Florida but all the states in between Florida and Pennsylvania and one special trip to Canada.  More on that trip later.

Back in those days there were a lot of hitchhikers. Most of the time they were military trying to get from one town to another.  Some had just come back from the war, others were men that just needed to get somewhere.  No matter where we went, we never passed a hitchhiker without stopping to offer them a ride, never. This was a little unnerving for me and even more unnerving for my mother, but my grandmother didn’t care.  Helping people was in her DNA and if she saw someone in need she helped. Granted, in those days we didn’t have the heightened concerns that exist today.

There was one particular instance that stands out for me that taught me a lesson regarding the power of generosity. On one of our trips down to south Florida we happened to pass a broken-down truck on the side of the road. It was some type of delivery truck and the man standing by the truck trying to get a ride seemed to be in great despair.  As always, we pulled up alongside the truck and grandma spoke to the man to see what help she may be able to offer. He said that he believed he needed a part, but we were 10 miles outside of the nearest town. Grandma insisted that we take him into town to get the part that he needed and off we went.   Of course, we waited and as soon as the part was secured we took him back to truck. But, did we just drop him off and go on our way?  No, grandma of course helped him fix the truck.

When he was done, he went to the back of the truck and took out a little box and handed it to me to say thank you.  You see, this was no ordinary truck.  The reason he was in such despair was that he was hauling packaged food that the astronauts used on their space flights and that was exactly what was in the box he gave to me.   To this day I wish I saved it.  But I was hungry, so of course I ate it!  However, in consuming it I also learned a lesson of compassion and caring that resonates with me all these years later.

A small act of kindness can very often be rewarded with a corresponding act of kindness, even when it isn’t expected.   Most likely today one would never think of picking up a hitchhiker on the side of the road. The world is a lot different and a lot scarier than in those days.  My guess is though that if there is any chance there are cars in heaven, grandma’s door is still wide open to anyone she passes.

Have a great day and remember to be the reason someone smiles.

Ron

Grandma Lola: The Social Hall

fullsizeoutput_2abdThey say, “If you build it, they will come”.  Such is the case with the First United Methodist Church in Okeechobee, Florida.   My grandmother was a member of the First United Methodist Church since she moved to Okeechobee in the 1940’s from Miami. My mom and dad were married there and my brother and I were baptized and attended church there until we graduated and moved away.  Grandma always made sure we were at Wednesday evening service, Sunday morning Sunday School and Sunday morning/evening services.  We were also a part of the church youth group.   The church basically had no social facilities and they made the decision to add an extension on to the existing building that would become the social hall where church gatherings would take place.

The church called on people with expertise in carpentry, electrical and construction to help erect this new wing. Can you guess who was the first one to raise her hand?   Every day after work and on Saturday’s (my grandmother was a strict believer that you didn’t work on Sunday), my grandmother was there. She had a tool belt around her waist, a hammer in her hand and she was climbing the ladders with all the men who were working on the building. When they were tired at night and ready to quit for the day she would urge them to stay a little longer. When they were gone, you could go down to the building and find her there alone finishing up any last-minute tasks or cleaning up from the day’s work, using up her last bit of energy. She would then get up in the morning, go to her job managing the warehouse and was right back out there again in the evening.

Some women watched in awe and others were appalled that she would insert herself in “mans’ work”, but she didn’t care. Grandma never lived her life caring what others thought, she lived it knowing that she was secure in who she was and in her faith.   The hall still stands today as a living testament to her and others who made it a reality.

Two years ago we used the hall for the repass after her funeral service.  As I sat there having my meal I could still feel her presence and looked around in awe at what she had been a part of.   Sometimes people try to put us in boxes where they think we should be. However, if we open those boxes and allow our true selves to come out, the things that we are able to accomplish in the world are amazing. Bring Smiles to Seniors was only possible because of the confidence my grandmother instilled in me early on in my life. It was way outside my comfort zone but the need was not something I could ignore.

The next time you are facing a challenge, think about Grandma Lola Mae on the ladder with her hammer. Dig deep and just maybe you will find the inner strength to accomplish what you thought was impossible.

Have a great day and remember to be the reason someone smiles.

Ron

Grandma Lola: The Delivery

fullsizeoutput_2b7dBring Smiles to Seniors was started because of my grandmother and it will live on in her memory.  Because it was started in the last year of her life, I often wondered if she ever really knew that I had done it. I told her about it and described it to her, but the mute reaction that she had to my description left me wondering if she truly knew.

On one of my visits to her, my friend Linda who has been with the program from the beginning accompanied me on my visit to her senior community in Okeechobee. We had decided that we would do a card delivery on this visit and hand out cards to the residents there. However, when we arrived and found my grandmother bright and alert that day, we came up with a much different plan that turned out to be one of the best decisions we ever made.

Usually, when we go into communities we hand deliver the cards to the residents one by one.  We have a little chat with them and tell them to have a wonderful day and we get to see the smiles on their faces when they open their card that has come from a complete stranger.  Sometimes they can’t see well enough to read the card and we read it to them out loud and watch the brightness that comes across their face. On this visit, we got the idea to have grandma do the deliveries herself. So, we loaded her up with cards in her wheelchair, pushed her through the aisles in the community and began the most amazing journey with her.

As you can tell by now, helping people was at the very core of her being. Even in the late stage of her life that gene never left her. The smile on her face as she handed the cards to the residents gave me the answer that I was looking for.  She knew what we were doing.  However, not only did she know, she was a part of it.  She laughed, she smiled and you could tell by the look on her face that she was in her element as she handed each resident their card.

It is so important when dealing with dementia/Alzheimer’s patients not to forget that they are still people. Treat them like they understand and give them a reason to be present. This moment was not only heartwarming and fulfilling for us, it gave her an hour of normalcy where in that point in time she was who she always was when she was at her best. From Grandma’s smile with the bag of cards in her lap at the beginning of the delivery to the high five with Linda when the delivery was finished, every moment was filled with a sense of accomplishment.

In every senior community we visit, we get special moments that will stay with us a lifetime. However, this visit will always be dearest because it was then that I knew that she was aware of the program and what we were doing. I believe in all my heart that she understood and at that very moment she infused Bring Smiles to Seniors with the lifeblood that will keep it going for many years to come.

If you encounter a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s this week give them a hug and let them know they are loved. Treat them as if they are still there. It will give both they and you a reason to smile.

Have a great day and remember to be the reason someone smiles.

Ron

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